Time Wasters and Online Fun

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Like any writer/social media whiz, my world is on computer. With deadlines hovering, I awake, make cappuccino, push the power button and hear the reassuring bong of startup. After sorting papers-in-chaos, I prioritize my morning “emergencies” and check emails. Clicking on one link leads me to a zillion more. Aside from the three biggest time suckers—Facebook, Twitter and YouTube—I lose still more time on Mashable, Wikipedia, and Petside.com (yes, I’m fixated on tech news, facts, and my dog). Curious, I polled other writers about sites they waste time on.

The first reply came from freelance writer Lara Bishop, “Does online shopping at Frederick’s of Hollywood count?” Given a reassuring nod she said, “Late at night, rather than focusing on my latest writing project, I surf lingerie sites like PamperedPassions.com and imagine what my life would be like if I had an intimate relationship with something other than a Word document.”

Steve Geng, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Thick As Thieves, said, “I’ll be writing my novel, then hear a little ding and I can’t resist checking to see who emailed—hey, could be my agent. I subscribe to TheDailyBeast.com because I like their journalism—timely, concise, and not too far left or right. Trouble is, at the end of each article are comments. I followed one thread that surged with vitriol and feelings of patriotic betrayal. It was about Christina Aguilera’s Star-Spangled Banner lyrics goof at the Super Bowl. Next thing I knew, after typing several comments of my own, three hours had gone by and I’d forgotten where I left off on my novel.”

Fiction and nonfiction writer Chris Roberts said his favorite site, Figment.com, has colors and graphics that remind him of the iconic 1980s show, Miami Vice. Funny he mentioned that—the above-quoted Geng appeared on many Miami Vice episodes. Roberts said, “Figment is fun for writers and has blog contests. One winner received a Personal Library Kit to keep track of who he or she loaned books to.”

TheFreeDictionary.com describes a gawker as a spectator who stares or gapes stupidly. Aptly named, Gawker.com provides titillating stars’ gossip from Manhattan to Hollywood. Susan Shapiro, an ASJA member and author of eight books in eight years whose motto is “a page a day is a book a year” said, “I hate to admit I still love Gawker, especially when they catch my enemies—or media people who’ve been rude to me—doing something stupid.” On a similar note, Melissa Malamut, author of She’s Got Game: The Woman’s Guide to Loving Sports (or Just How to Fake It!) said, “My guilty pleasures are TMZ.com or PerezHilton.com. Seeing celebs in unflattering photos always makes me feel much better after a rejected pitch or bad review.”

One ASJA member needed computer detox. Alisa Bowman, author of Project: Happily Ever After, said, “It got lonely endlessly staring at blogs and discussion boards. Then I remembered I have a family right here to talk to.” She admitted she’d been checking her Amazon sales rank like a nervous tic, repeatedly refreshing the screen hoping to see a higher number. “It was an ugly situation; I had to quit.”

ASJA’s Hilary Davidson, author of the mystery The Damage Done, said, “MulhollandBooks.com features short stories in its ‘Popcorn Fiction’ section. I’ll start reading and tell myself, ‘Just one more, just one more.’ During a 10-minute break I’ll suddenly realize 75 minutes have flown away!”

Journalist Todd Hill said he couldn’t pick one. “Sites I most frequently visited 18 months ago may not be the same ones I’m looking at now, or will be in another 18 months.” ASJA member Dahna M. Chandler, an award-winning investigative journalist, said, “I keep about 60 tabs open on two browsers. I’m constantly checking blogs looking for content and prowling for ideas. Good excuse for wasting time, eh?”

ASJA member Linda Melone said she’s hooked on TheOatmeal.com. I visited the home page which screams in large black type: “Dumb Jokes That Are Funny.”

“Watch out,” Melone said, “it is addictive.”

Pamela Jacobs, editor in chief at New York’s Resident magazine, is a fan of LameBook.com; “It’s a great waste of time and a scary insight into the depths of stupidity.” I had to see for myself and read the top two tweets. “First was this: Sarah Palin and Snookie having NY Times bestsellers makes me realize being literate is overated.” I wondered if that last word was misspelled on purpose. Post No. 2 said: “Dear Punctuation, I want you inside of me. Sincerely, Quotation Marks.” Yup, I LOL’d.

Freelance writer Bonnie Bernstein said, “Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a Donny Osmond obsession.” She learned the Osmonds followed the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). “Mormons sounded so great,” Bernstein said. “It made me want to marry Donny even more.” It wasn’t until adulthood she found out the connection to polygamy. “While that doesn’t appeal to me, and probably not to Donny, I find it fascinating and spend hours googling FLDS and polygamy.”

And newsletter editor Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, admittedly obsessed with yarn, knitting, and sometimes even weaving, says she spends way too much time at Ravelry.com, a website for knitters and weavers.

Hey, whatever boots your server, loosens your login, or bings your blog.

This article appears in the April 2011 ASJA newsletter.